Once the largest port in Connecticut, the city of Middletown has long turned its back on its riverfront. As the city’s economy now relies less on industry and more on tourism, the riverfront is positioned to be a huge boon socially and economically for the city. Hard to access both physically and visually, the river is cut off from the city by Route 9. Large swaths of land on the riverfront have now opened up for redevelopment, including the former Peterson Oil storage facility and the soon to be relocated Waste Treatment Plant. This allows the city to re-envision the role of the riverfront for recreational use, community gathering and new private development.
In 2013, PPS was invited by the City of Middletown to work with the Riverfront Committee to create a placemaking master plan. The team conducted a series of workshops and focus groups highlighting a variety of sites that offer opportunities for public uses while accommodating appropriate private development. The placemaking activities helped build a vision for a series of vibrant public destinations along the river.
PPS’s recommendations focused on the uses and activities needed to create great places on the riverfront and addressed long and short term planning and implementation. PPS developed a detailed concept plan that highlighted nine sites to activate and redevelop, forming a “string of pearls” connected by a riverwalk, a path for bicyclists and pedestrians. Recommendations included improving Harbor Park as an active gateway to the riverfront, rebuilding a new community boathouse, creating a “Great Lawn” for outdoor performances at Sumner Point, highlighting the river's industrial past by reusing some of the waste water treatment facilities for recreation, and more.